Improving Collaboration

Improving Collaboration

Learn About Your Colleagues and What Their Departments Really do to Eliminate Silos and Build Relationships.

I worked with a company where departments were siloed and cross-functional communication was fractured. Teams seemed to always be at odds and focused on their priorities without thinking about how their needs and requests affected other departments. This continued to lead to departments competing for resources, miscommunication, misunderstandings, lack of trust and broken down processes. It wasn’t working.

This isn’t just an annoyance to deal with at work. It’s extremely costly. As reported in Harvard Business Review in his article, How to Permanently Dissolve Cross-Departmental Rivalries, Ron Carucci cited that “One study reports that 85% of workers experience some regular form of conflict, with U.S. workers averaging 2.8 hours per week. That equates to $359 billion paid hours mired in conflict.” That is a lot of time and money wasted on conflict.

So how do you break down down silos and reduce conflict to improve the communication and processes between departments? One thing Ron Carucci suggested is to work with teams to work through the following questions:

  • What value do we create together?
  • What capabilities do we need to deliver the value?
  • How will we resolve conflicts and make decisions while maintaining trust?
  • What do we need from each other to succeed?

As part of the Leadership Development Program I created, I added a new module which included a project entitled “What I Thought I Knew.” Each person in the program was assigned a department they didn’t work in and had to create a presentation composed of two parts:

  1. What they thought they knew about their assigned department
  2. What they learned about their assigned department

What They Thought They Knew

This was the easier part of the project. It basically entailed putting together a list of what they knew about the department. What the department did, the different roles in the department, how that department interacted with other departments, etc.

As expected, participants thought they knew a lot more about each of the departments than they truly did. Their surface knowledge did not catch all of the nuances of the interrelationships between colleagues, functions, and other departments. They did not know the value they created together because of the silos.

What They Learned

Learning about their assigned department entailed much more. Participants had to interview colleagues at all levels. They had to shadow their colleagues to learn more detailed nuances of their roles. They learned about the daily communications, emails, and requests that interrupted their colleague’s priorities, and understand how that affected their work. It was a real eye-opener.

The Presentations

The final part of the project was to present their findings to their Leadership Program cohort. They had to learn and teach each other. The results were impactful and opened up dialogues and helped to begin the breakdown of silos and misunderstandings as well.

The Outcome

Through this process, they began to understand the value they created together. They began to see the capabilities they needed to deliver the value. They opened the door to begin to resolve conflicts and make decisions while maintaining trust. And lastly, they began to learn what they needed from each other to succeed.

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash